Isabel and Ruben Toledo
Join us as we journey through the Otis Fashion Campus and explore the new concept of designing for plus-size models instead of the idealized model.
That’s right no more, skinny, everything fits models. This time they must face reality.

Do you remember this yellow outfit worn by Michelle Obama in 2009 during Obama’s inauguration parade?

This outfit was designed by Isabel Toledo, and a group of seniors were fortunate enough to be mentored by her for the senior project. Isabel is a Cuban designer who works along with her husband Ruben Toledo. She is an amazingly creative fashion designer who has inspired other designers and is known as a "designer's designer." She’s recently gave the seniors the task of designing for plus-sized women.

Michelle Obama represents women who have full sized bodies, but can still look confident and elegant. However, can you find a size 12 or higher in stores like Saks Fifth Avenue or Neiman Marcus? The answer is obvious. A resounding No. Full-sized women have problems shopping for clothes. Many of them prefer shopping online, and even then finding a size that fits them is hard.

Join us as we follow these students, through a huge life experience designing for plus-sized women. Hi, I'm Aida and I’m a sophomore in fashion. My partner is Na, a senior in fashion. Here’s a little overview on the project.

Aida: Hi, could you explain what the project you are working on is about? 

Na: Isabel Toledo is a great designer. She has worked with Otis many times. The project is about designing for full-sized women to make them look modern and chic. We took inspirations from cubism and futuristic metropolis and combined it with soft and hard constructions.

Aida: Was this project one of your first choices? Why?

Na: This project is my first choice. I have looked up every Isabel Toledo mentor project. I am really excited to work with her. 

Aida: What was your reaction the first time you heard about using plus-sized models? 

Na: When I first heard about this project I thought they were joking, because I haven’t known Otis to work with plus-size models before. When I got back home and started researching, I found out a lot of information on Isabel being interested in the plus-size market. After that, I realized it wasn't a joke. 

Aida: Why is it hard for you guys to work with plus-sized models?

Na: It is our first time designing for plus size model, and we need to make the garments in 6 weeks for the fashion show. Full size women have a variety of body shapes. Even though women are the same size 12, different parts of their body can differ by up to 5 inches. Unlike the slim models, designing for plus-sized models have limitations in terms of fabric choices, garment constructions, color choices and etc.

Fig. 1: Four Figure Types - Diane Kennedy
Fig. 1

Aida: You said that there are limitations, can you give me an example? 

Na: Dark, grey colors make them look slimmer. We need to limit the design for their full areas. If their shoulders are wider, we can’t make them wider. Full sized women always look shorter, so working for their proportion is really hard. We really have to control their proportion to make them look taller and slimmer.   

Aida: What parts of this project do you like and don’t like so far? 

Na: Working in this project wasn't like working in the other. I was really excited to work in this project at the beginning, because my parents are going to come to the fashion show for my graduation. My mom gained 30 pounds, after giving birth to me and my brother. It is really hard to find pretty clothes that can fit her. I hope to design something that can make her look modern and pretty. 

At this point Na gave out a huge sigh and put her hands on her face saying how their project wasn’t going as planned.

Aida: Why isn’t everything going as planned? 

Na: We are having a hard time grasping the idea of the plus sized model, but we are working hard to make it work.

Aida: So what’s next for the seniors? 

Na: We are going to have a Skype interview with Isabel Toledo and she will choose a design that we will start creating. I wish it turns out well, ha ha. 

Aida: Okay well keep updating everyone on the project. That’s it for this installment and you'll hear from us next week!


- Aida & Na -


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